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Current Events God is Good Saving America

The Great Falling Away: Is It Happening Now?

falling away

I’ve spent many years studying the end times, and interestingly enough, it has made me less likely to jump at conclusions about what is and isn’t a sign of the end times. Every volcano, earthquake and rumor of war doesn’t cause me to retreat into my prayer bunker stocked with a three year supply of nasty food.

No, one of the things that I am certain of is that when the “signs of the times” come, we will have data to back it up. In Matthew 24:5-14, Jesus tells us of the “beginning of birth pangs.” These are the signs that things are progressing toward His return, but just as Jesus says, not every war or earthquake is a sign. No, when we begin to see an “other than” set of events, like has never before happened in history, that is when we know the times are coming soon. One of those signs is the “great falling away.”

Cold

This will probably be the saddest hour in human history. Many will turn away from the faith. Satan will raise up false prophets to condone their turning away and the love of “most” will grow cold because of their increase in sin (Matthew 24:12). But how will this happen? What will cause many to turn away from faith in Jesus? That, I can’t answer, but I do know the mechanics of what it looks like. We are seeing it now.

I don’t know if we are at the beginning of the “great falling away,” but I do know that we are seeing the early stages of at least a “big falling away.” How do I know? I hear it more and more every day.

For the past year or two, I have heard an increasing number of people casually reject “sound doctrine” in favor of things that “tickle their ears.” Read what Paul told Timothy:

3For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

Foundational

What Paul isn’t talking about are secondary matters—things like when to pass the collection plate or what denomination is the right one. No, Paul is speaking about rejecting the sound doctrine of Jesus. What is that? Anything other than the gospel that Paul preached, according to him.

That gospel, that not only Paul preached, but every other apostle in scripture, is this: you are sinful and your sins separate you from God. You deserve punishment for your sin and rebellion against God, but Jesus has offered you reconciliation to God through the blood He shed on the cross. He has atoned for your sins, if you choose to accept Him. If you acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge you before God.

That’s my brief paraphrase, but let’s break it down. Here are the necessary parts of the equation: 1)You are sinful, 2) you deserve punishment, 3) Jesus shed His blood to atone for you, 4) accept and acknowledge Him and have eternal life with Him.

Turning Away from the Faith

If you take away any one of those pieces, you do not have faith in Jesus. You may have faith in something, but it is not faith in the One who has redeemed you to God (Revelation 5:9). But listen carefully today. Listen to the voices out there. There are a growing number of voices that are carefully removing one or more parts of this every day. Many are offended at the idea of sin, so they tell people that they aren’t all that bad.

Or maybe they are offended by punishment. They don’t like the idea that God would truly punish someone. After all, how bad could they be? Others still persist that Jesus’ blood isn’t to atone for your sins, but it was a simply a show of His affection for you. And others insist that one doesn’t need to acknowledge Jesus or the Christian God to inherit eternal life.

Some form of these rejections have always been around. The thing that is causing me great concern is for the overwhelming number of pastors, teachers and leaders within the church today who are becoming quite vocal about dismissing one or more of these aspects of our faith.

The Great Offense

The problem many have is that it is offensive to tell people that what they do is sin. Or offensive to say if they don’t serve the right God, they will spend eternity in hell. It is just too offensive to say that we deserve punishment. But if we don’t say and affirm those things, we are not in danger of falling down a slippery slope towards apostasy—no, we have already abandoned the faith when we do so.

That sounds very serious because it is. Right now, the cause celebre is to pronounce that homosexuality isn’t sin. Not only do we deny what God has already called sin, but we also deny those steeped in that sin the opportunity to come face to face with it and be reconciled to God. Remember, without an acknowledgment of sin, we cannot accept Jesus. If we choose for Him not to save us FROM anything, there is nothing for Him to save us TO.

Right now we are seeing a falling away. People every day are deciding who they think Jesus is and what He would think about things devoid of any ration or reason. They are justifying themselves by saying that “surely Jesus woudn’t do ____.” That isn’t a slippery slope, that’s a cliff.

Our Rock of Offense

That makes the stand we must take all the more difficult. It is offensive. It is hard. It will cost us, maybe dearly. But Jesus told us that those of us who “stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).

We must stand confident in Jesus, the “rock of offense,” (Isaiah 8:14, Romans 9:33 & 1 Peter 2:8) because His offense is the foundation of our faith. Unless we are offended by His assertion over our lives, we cannot then see our own sin and need for Him.

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Current Events Written Word

Calvinism vs. Arminianism

CvsA

A friend asked me a question this morning about how to pray for lost souls. The topic came up because a pastor they knew told them that because God predestines those who are saved by whom the Spirit draws, no one whom the Spirit draws can resist. It got them to thinking and it got them confused. Should we even pray for the lost?

This, of course, is a very Calvinistic position. If you’re not familiar with Calvinism, then you haven’t been paying attention recently. There has been a resurgence in recent years of what many are calling Neo-Calvinism. Traditionally a belief held only by Presbyterians, the ideology has spread rapidly among Baptists and non-denominational churches and theologians. Grossly oversimplified, most people associate Calvinism with “predestination.” Those whom God draws are unable to resist His grace, and those whom He doesn’t draw are unable to acquire it.

Genesis

If you are interested to know more for yourself, you are free to Google “Calvinism” or “Arminianism.” The short version is that back in the early days after the Protestant Reformation, Calvin was confronted by his Catholic antagonists about his theology. A brilliant man, a prolific writer and speaker, he talked about how he believed God’s grace could not be earned, as the Catholic doctrine said (again, oversimplified), but that it was irresistible to those whom it was offered. Basically, we had no part in our salvation.

Not agreeing with the Catholic position, but also not agreeing with Calvin, a man named Jacob Arminius penned a five-point response to Calvin’s theology. After Calvin’s death, his followers penned his much more famous five points of Calvinism, commonly referred to as TULIP (look it up).

The Problem

Men, for ages, have longed to wrestle complex problems and make them easily understandable. It is in our nature to uncover what is hidden and make it accessible. For decades, physicists have been looking for the Theory of Relativity, a seemingly unattainable equation to explain everything in the universe (yet again, very oversimplified). They haven’t found it yet.

Solomon had this to say about our quest for uncovering what is hidden:

2It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;

to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

3As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,

so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

Proverbs 25:2-3

It is interesting that Solomon knew that God had hidden glorious things from us. Solomon called those who could search them out kings. What is even more interesting is that he said that a king’s heart is unsearchable. Somehow, Solomon said in two sentences that God can be figured out by those who can’t be figured out. That’s a paradoxical statement at best.

Solomon isn’t really saying that God’s wisdom is finite and man’s wisdom is infinite. He is speaking to the unknowable nature of what is out there—even thought God longs for us to uncover the things He has hidden. Even in the glory of discovery, there is always an element of secrecy—something more we haven’t found yet.

Calvinism and Arminianism both overlook this key nature of God. Even in our ability to know God and be fully known, we still see “only in part” (1 Corinthians 13:12). While I believe that it is a worthy exercise to search out the scriptures to know God, Calvinism and Arminianism both paint God into a corner that I think are unattainable. They are both, at their core, reactionary dogmas against arguments levied by antagonists. They do more to stoke our own pride and ego than they do to explain God.

The Solution

I like how David put it.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:6

I encourage you to read all of Psalm 139. It is very clear here that David is speaking directly to this idea of God’s foreknowledge. David is saying, in essence, that the idea of predestination is very real, but that somehow God has chosen to give man a part too. How God can foreknow, predestine and at the same time allow man a choice makes David’s head spin. That makes me feel like I’m in good company, because it makes my head spin too.

I would go so far to say that if it doesn’t make your head spin, then you’ve really lost something. If you have chosen to fall in step with either Calvinism or Arminianism, then I think you have chosen to explain the unexplainable.

Yes, God is sovereign. Yes, man has a choice.

How the two work together are beyond me, but I am just fine with that.

For now, I plan to argue very little about it and take the issue up with the One who knows the answer when I meet Him. I assume it will take me a few billion years to get it through my thick skull, because I’m slow that way.

It’s okay, I’ll have time.

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Current Events

The Changing Church Landscape

As we see more and more people drop out of the church, we need to face the difficult questions we have been ignoring. I have been listening to the Phil Vischer Podcast (the creator of Veggie Tales), of which Skye Jethani is a host. My wife and I both think that Skye is one of the best communicators in our time. If you are a pastor or in ministry (many of you who read my blog are), I encourage you to watch this. It is powerful and will help you ask some of the right questions that maybe you’ve been overlooking.

[youtube id=”86QQLcqB0NY” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Thanks Dan Edelen for stirring me up to post this today.

Categories
Current Events Saving America

Pompeii: A Warning To Us Today

Pompeii

This year a movie will be released about the ancient city of Pompeii. From the previews, it looks to be an epic thriller cataloguing the devastation and destruction that instantly enveloped a beautiful Italian city. But I doubt the movie will tell the entire story.

And Pompeii’s story is one we desperately need to know today.

Instantly Entombed

If you are familiar with Pompeii, it is probably because you have seen the images of the body cavities that were instantly and perfectly preserved by the hot ash that fell from Mount Vesuvius when it erupted in 79 AD. The body cavities were formed when hot ash enveloped people trying to escape the destruction. They huddled together, mostly in fetal positions and often with loved ones and children, as the ash covered them. The heat of the ash killed them and eventually decomposed their bodies, leaving behind an empty cavity in the ash. When the cavities were discovered, they were filled with plaster so that we could see what they looked like after everything was excavated. They are striking, terrifying and sobering reminder of what “mother nature” can unleash upon her inhabitants in an instant.

But that is not the entire story of Pompeii. Not by a long shot.

Sexual Depravity

In a Roman world caught up with sexual immorality, Pompeii was the beacon, shining its light to lead the way. The Roman world was filled with promiscuity, divorce, homosexual acts with minors, orgies and every other imaginable debauchery, but Pompeii was the city to rule them all for sex.

From 79 to 1599 AD the city lay forgotten. For all that time humanity only had the writings of Pliny the Younger to attest to its existence. But when Pompeii was discovered in 1599, its discoverer walked away from it. Domenico Fontana was so shocked by what he saw, he didn’t believe it was fit to release upon the world. He wasn’t shocked by any body cavities he found, but the images he saw on the walls of Pompeii’s perfectly preserved buildings.

Pompeii was the manufacturer of pornographic pleasures unlike any time in Western history until…now. The artifacts and perfectly preserved fresco paintings in Pompeii rival and even surpass any Eastern notions of sexual depravity preserved through history. Pompeii was apparently the Western world’s play place for sex. The level of depravity they lived under was perfectly preserved by Vesuvius’ eruption for all the world to see today.

The Judgment of God

And that begs the question, why did the eruption so quickly and completely envelope Vesuvius?
Sometimes it is difficult, and even ridiculously vain, to try and uncover the judgment of God from events that it simply doesn’t exist in. Some things happen and the Lord doesn’t give an explanation of why. Thornton Wilder wrote The Bridge of San Luis Rey about just that. We must not seek to find the judgment of God when it is not there.

But Pompeii’s situation screams for attention to be paid to it. Pompeii was more than a few people who died on a bridge—it was a city wholly devoted to one thing: sexual immorality. There are far too many biblical passages to list that show God’s hatred for sexual immorality (Ephesians 5, 1 Thessalonians 4, Galatians 5, Romans 1, Revelation 2-3, etc.). And it is not that sexual sin makes you any more a sinner than any other kind of sin. The devastating problem with sexual sin is that it defiles us more than anything else we can engage in.

18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Defiling And Destructive

Sexual sin defiles us like nothing else. It wreaks havoc on our tender souls and puts a wedge between us and God. That wedge is not because God is angrier at us, but that we are less apt to run back to God for forgiveness. It causes us, like Adam, to run and hide from God instead of run to Him for forgiveness. It warps our view of God faster than anything else.

When God judges, He does so for two reasons. He proclaims judgment against those who fight against His people, as is clearly evident in the book of Revelation, and He also proclaims judgment against the sin waging war within His people to purify them. At times that sin becomes so grievous that He actually removes people from planet earth just to rid the earth of their sin. God refused to give the promised land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants until the sin of the Amorites had reached its full measure (Genesis 15:16).

In Pompeii’s case, it stands as a warning to all on the earth who would seek to walk in such a level of depravity. It is hard to look at Pompeii and not see the judgment of God. The problem with that is that it is always easier with hindsight. We today are at a loss to see our own depravity in the same way the Pompeiians were even up to the point of their demise.

A Warning To Heed

As this movie comes out this year, will America choose to see itself as a depraved nation in need of God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace, or will we continue to harden our hearts against our maker. Will we choose to submit to Him, or will we continue to redefine what God calls good and bad to suit our whims?

Now is the time to open our eyes and see our moment of visitation before it is too late. Please, America, wake up and return to your God.

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Current Events

Watch The OneThing Conference for FREE

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I have been to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City’s (IHOP-KC) main conference several times. I went to the first one in 2002 and I’ve been in recent years, and I can tell you that each time I have been radically changed. Watching online is the next best thing to being there in person. I encourage you to take some time and watch this conference online for FREE over the next few days. It is running today through midnight, December 31st.

Click here or the image above to watch now.